Blogs - Blogs
Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fact Check on EPA's Power Plant Proposal
During today's Senate Environment & Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety hearing entitled, "Climate Change: The Need to Act Now," the Honorable Christine Todd Whitman, former Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said in her testimony:

"There is, of course, honest disagreement about aspects of the Agency's power plant proposal, including whether it may be stretching its legal authority a bit too far in some parts of the proposed rule."

According to the Attorney General for the State of Alabama, Luther Strange, EPA is clearly going beyond their authority.

"The Clean Air Act forbids regulating sources under Section 111(d) if they are regulated under section 112 of the Act....EPA has also improperly attempted to limit section 111(d)'s express statutory delegation of authority to the States." (June 18, 2014 Testimony before the Senate EPW Committee)

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Vitter Summary Statement for Subcommittee Hearing on Climate Change
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety “Climate Change: The Need to Act Now”
Thank you, Subcommittee Chairman Whitehouse, for convening today's hearing. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses here today: Dr. Daniel Botkin; Dr. Joseph Mason; and the Honorable Luther Strange. The science, economic consequences, and legal underpinnings of the EPA's actions to advance the President's Climate Action Plan are topics the Administration does not want us to discuss. However, their unilateral actions will increase America's electricity bills, decrease a family's disposable income, and result in job losses for little or no measurable impact on our ever changing climate.

On June 2, EPA proposed an unprecedented rule targeting our country's electricity system. Using a provision in the Clean Air Act that has only been used 5 times in 40 years, EPA goes beyond the boundaries of the power plant and requires States to set performance standards that apply to the entire electricity system, mandating renewable energy and rationing energy on which families and businesses rely. EPA argues this rule is a gift to States, that it provides States with the flexibility to create a program that works for them. In reality, though, the term "flexibility" is a red herring - States are forced into achieving questionable emission reduction targets from a limited menu of economically-damaging and legally questionable options. States are left little choice but to join or create regional cap-and-trade programs, which achieves the Administration's goal of making sure we all pay more for energy. Electricity prices in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative states and California are 45% more than in my home state of Louisiana. 56% of Louisiana families spend an average of 21% of their after-tax income on energy. They simply cannot afford the higher electricity bills that will inevitably result from this rule.

The rule is billed as climate change mitigation, with America leading the way. Unfortunately, anyone who has actually read the 645-page rule, as well as its multiple technical support documents, finds it has no material effect on global average temperature or sea level rise. The majority of the benefits touted by EPA come from double-counting reductions of other emissions already regulated through other measures. While this Administration expects other governments to consider the global effects of their greenhouse gas emissions when regulating - just as they did when creating the "black box" social cost of carbon estimates used to justify costly regulations - there is absolutely no reason to presume the world's biggest emitters will follow us down the path of economic destruction.

While extreme claims made over the last three decades about the devastating impacts of global warming failed to come true, empirical evidence does show us that the Earth's climate has, is, and always will be changing. Recently, many of the extreme weather claims being made were found to be without merit. Testimony previously provided to the Committee found that the historical record does not indicate that hurricanes, floods, and tornados have increased in number or intensity. In fact the models upon which temperature increase and sea level rise predictions rely are rife with uncertainty. What has come true is the economic calamity that befalls nations that head down the path President Obama unilaterally selected for America. It provides us a window into our future - and it looks bleak. Our friends in Europe adopted similar carbon constraining frameworks, filled with government mandates and cronyism, and were rewarded with economic meltdown. In an effort to recover, Germany is lifting its ban on fracking and increasing the use of coal, while Spain is abandoning the handouts that supported its renewable energy program. Instead of embracing our domestic energy resources and the bright economic light they provide in our otherwise dismal economy, the President's Climate Action Plan moves us beyond coal, and eventually beyond natural gas, which they characterize as a bridge fuel.

The burden of proof lies with the Administration and its allies to provide the specifics as to how we can power our future with wind, waves and solar-and how we can do it, as they claim we can, quickly and without any cost to the consumer or the broader economy. It's one thing to call for, as some have, moving to "100 percent renewable energy in 10 years." But the problem is, those who have actually done the math, and examined the details, whether it's the Energy Information Administration, the International Energy Agency, or even the IPCC, find that they can't avoid this inescapable fact: fossil fuels and nuclear will continue to meet demand for electricity for decades to come. There's simply no way around it, because coal, natural gas and nuclear are abundant, affordable, and reliable. If we deny this and pursue the pie-in-the-sky path of the Administration and environmental groups, we will end up like Europe.

Today, the American electricity system provides affordable reliable power 7 days a week, 365 days a year to families, schools, hospitals, and businesses. The existing source rule as proposed will increase costs to all consumers, especially the poor, the elderly, and those on fixed incomes for no material effect on climate change. In reality, this rule is essentially a federal takeover of the American electricity system. Is everyone here comfortable with the EPA being responsible for our electricity system?

Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from today's witnesses.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Vitter Summary Statement for Oversight Subcommittee Hearing on EPA's Superfund Program
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Oversight “Protecting Taxpayers and Ensuring Accountability: Faster Superfund Cleanups for Healthier
Thank you, Subcommittee Chairman Booker, for convening today's hearing. In this committee we often do not conduct the appropriate level of oversight, particularly of EPA and the programs it administers, so I appreciate you scheduling this important hearing.

According to EPA figures, Louisiana has 26 Superfund sites. These sites are an uncontrolled or abandoned place where hazardous waste is located, all of which can be found on the National Priorities List. Ensuring that these sites are cleaned up expeditiously is of great interest to both me and the people of Louisiana.

It seems clear to me that there has been widespread fraud, waste, and abuse by the EPA, and our number one priority as the committee of jurisdiction over the Agency should be to curtail these abuses and ensure that, at a time when Americans are forced to operate on tighter budgets, our government refrains from improperly wasting their hard-earned tax dollars.

One telling example of this kind of waste within EPA's vast bureaucracy is demonstrated by the Superfund program itself. Just yesterday, the EPA Inspector General found that EPA Region 9 improperly paid a contractor more than $1.5 million in additional profit for Superfund cleanup services.

It is rather ironic that the EPA and advocates for this administration complain about the lack of funding for the Superfund program when this program's shortcomings are based on a lack of leadership, poor resource management, and ineffective bureaucracy.

Luckily, within the Superfund context, this Administration has made clear that there is not a direct correlation between the amount of money in the Superfund Trust Fund and the Agency's ability to clean up future projects. In a July 2009 GAO report, EPA plainly stated that "the balance in the Superfund Trust Fund does not affect the funds available for current or future annual appropriations. Therefore, it cannot serve as a reliable indicator to responsible parties of EPA's ability to fund future cleanup actions."

As a matter of fact, this Administration accomplished fewer superfund cleanups in 2009 - a year during which they received $600 million in stimulus money - than any single year of the entire George W. Bush Administration. While the number of cleanups accomplished in 2009 was 20, even more disappointing is EPA's goal for the coming years, aiming to complete 15 sites in 2014 and only 13 in 2015.

I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure EPA is following the letter of the law and operating its programs in ways that provide meaningful environmental and health benefits, but I am concerned that we are again about to embark down the partisan path of implementing punitive taxes on specific industries that some choose to demonize.

Under current Superfund law, in a vast majority of instances the polluter already pays. Responsible parties are either required to perform cleanups or reimburse the government for EPA-led cleanups under the program. Other cleanups are funded by appropriations designed specifically for this program.

Implementing a blanket tax against domestic manufacturing or industries, such as refining, does not ensure the "polluter pays" - instead it ensures that our national competitiveness is diminished regardless of a company's involvement. And this is at a time when our national competitiveness is about to take a major hit from the President's newly proposed cap-and-trade program.

Thank you again, Subcommittee Chairman Booker, for holding this important hearing, and I look forward to learning about the ways we can improve the Superfund Program from the witnesses.

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Breaking Down the Economics of Obama’s Waters of the U.S. Rule
The Obama Administration is currently attempting to expand the federal government's power under the Clean Water Act (CWA). EPW Republicans are concerned with the way this Administration's water-related policies threaten our nation's economy, families, farmers, and small business owners. Click here to read more.

In late March 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) announced the proposed "waters of the United States" rule, which defines various terms, including "tributary," "adjacent waters," and "neighboring waters" that would fall under federal authority under the Clean Water Act. These definitions greatly expand the federal government's power over ditches, floodplains, and other areas through which water may flow. Along with the proposed rule, EPA and the Corps released an economic analysis, which claims that the proposed rule would result in a 2.7% increase in jurisdictional waterbodies and only 1,332 acres of land across the country would be subjected to new permitting requirements.

Independent analysis shows that the EPA and Corps severely underestimated the economic impacts of the proposed rule. Specifically, a review of Agencies' economic analysis by Dr. David Sunding, founding director of the Berkeley Water Center and Professor in the College of Natural Resources at the University of California, Berkeley, shows significant shortcomings in their methodology, which undermines the credibility of the agencies' economic analysis.

Below are notable issues regarding the Agencies' economic analysis:

Uninformed Methodology

As Dr. Sunding points out, EPA and the Corps repeatedly rely on statistical methods that do not account for the actual rulemaking or how the Clean Water Act really works. For example, in reaching the conclusion that 1,332 acres of land would be impacted, the Agencies failed to recognize that numerous waters never previously subject to the CWA's permitting requirements would become subject to federal authority under the proposed rule. The Agencies also focused narrowly on the CWA's section 404 dredge and fill program, when in fact, the law contains numerous other regulatory schemes that would be expanded under the proposal.

Outdated, Unreliable Data

EPA's and the Corps' use of the 2009-2010 time period as a baseline to estimate the impacts of the proposed rule is misleading.

To determine how jurisdiction might change for the newly defined categories of waters, EPA and the Corps relied on narrow data sets from 2009-2010. During those two fiscal years, a number of regulated entities, including landowners, were not required to apply for Section 404 permits under the CWA. However, under the proposed rule, landowners and developers would have to consider all water and wetlands, including ditches and puddles, as being under federal jurisdiction, therefore dramatically increasing the number of permit applications.

Additionally, 2009 through 2010 was at the height of the financial crisis. According to Dr. Sunding's review, construction and land development slowed significantly, as did the number of relevant permit applications and permit filings. Statistically, these two years are not representative of what the proposed rule would do and lowered the estimated impacts.

Lack of Transparency

EPA and the Corps have not shared or made public much of the underlying data used to estimate the impacts of the proposed "waters of the United States" rule. This is not atypical for the Agencies. However, considering the numerous weak points in their economic analysis, it is inappropriate to justify the proposed "waters of the United States" rule, which will have a significant economic impact across the country, with secret data and flawed methodologies.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Vitter Summary Statement on NRC Oversight Hearing
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works “Oversight Hearing: NRC’s Implementation of the Fukushima Near-Term Task Force Recommendations and Other Actions to Enhance and Maintain Nuclear Safety”
Thank you, Chairman Boxer, for convening today's hearing, and I would also like to thank our NRC commissioners for being here to testify before this committee.

Lately, various members on this committee have been very proactive in attempting to change how the NRC manages itself and our nation's nuclear-powered electricity generating facilities. In recent months, we have seen legislation, letters, and statements from my colleagues in favor of new, and might I add, mostly unnecessary regulations.

Today I want to urge our commissioners to be precise and direct in their thoughts on these initiatives and to commit to using the best available science and facts to ensure that any new rules and regulations are actually necessary for our fleet, which happens to have a long track record of safety.

Members of Congress should not be committed to regulating just for the sake of regulating. Such a mindset results in economic hardship and a diminished capacity for our energy sector to meet the needs of this nation.

There exists a base-line standard that the Commission should meet when considering new regulations, and I would like to commend the Commission for basing their recent vote, to eliminate further generic assessments to expedite the transfer of spent fuel from pools to dry storage, on facts and sound science.

While some of my colleagues may disagree with the Commission and myself on this issue, it is important to note that the NRC staff who recommended the elimination of these generic assessments had extensively studied the issue and compiled all available data to make the best possible recommendation.

As most of you are aware, this past Monday EPA Administer Gina McCarthy and President Obama released new regulations for carbon emissions from existing power plants as part of the President's Climate Action Plan. While the President's efforts to kill coal-fired generation are obvious and already underway, a more subversive effort to cripple the nuclear industry is also ongoing.

When he first announced the Climate Action plan, the President notoriously stated that he supports an "all-of-the-above" approach. The disingenuous nature of this claim requires only a cursory review of recent actions by the Administration. For the nuclear sector, the work being done to undermine the waste confidence rule and kill the Yucca Mountain project is a clear example of a long-term strategy to shut down more of our nation's nuclear reactors.

Another example is the recent 316(b) rule for cooling water intake systems. Although EPA's rule this time around may not look like it will have the critical impact many in the environmental community had hoped, it will certainly be litigated and whatever deal the EPA cuts behind closed doors will assuredly be worse.

I firmly believe that nuclear energy should play a role in meeting our domestic energy needs. However, I am concerned that Senate Democrats are using these hearings to provide cover for their efforts to kill nuclear generation in their own states, which has only served to decrease the output and capacity of our nation's reliable nuclear reactor fleet. Ironically, these shutdowns will increase greenhouse gas emissions as states struggle to find other baseload power.

Continued efforts to force the NRC to needlessly pursue regulations, which offer no real safety gains, is a classic example of the sprawling big government mindset that persists in Washington.

Finally, I would like to state my concern on the lack of communication from the NRC or the Administration about the re-nomination of Commissioner Apostolakis whose term is up at the end of this month, as well as a replacement for Commissioner Magwood when he vacates his seat later this year. Keeping these positions filled by qualified individuals must remain a priority to ensure the safety of our constituents and for our nation's economy. I urge the Administration to act on this quickly so that the Commission can continue its important work without interruption or distractions.

Again, thank you very much for being here, and I look forward to hearing from you on these important issues.

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Vitter Summary Statement for Subcommittee Hearing on Farming, Fishing, Forestry & Hunting
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Green Jobs “Farming, Fishing, Forestry and Hunting in an Era of Changing Climate”
Mr. Chairman. I want to thank you for holding today's hearing that focuses on the impacts of our ever-changing climate. I have encouraged this Committee to take a precise look at the purported impacts of carbon dioxide (CO2) on climate and to compare those to the empirical evidence. Rather than speaking in hyperbole, I think it is important for members of the Senate and members of the media to speak in a precise, direct manner.

Unfortunately, precise dialogue is not always the case. Time and again, we have heard outlandish and often conflicting claims about the devastating impacts of America's reliance on affordable energy. Whether we look at the 1974 Time Magazine article that suggested we were about to enter another ice age, or an article from last week in the same publication that suggested global warming could "sink the Statute of Liberty," or if we simply review the many extreme claims of White House Science Advisor John Holdren, it is no longer appropriate to sound the alarm on predictions that are not supported by empirical evidence or a sound scientific process.

Yesterday, the President announced sweeping power plant regulations that will set America on a path similar to that of Europe's. Should these rules be enacted, we are looking at a future of increased energy prices, heavy-handed government regulation, deteriorating competitiveness, and economic decline. Currently, many European countries are desperately seeking a way out of the path that the President has proposed, which makes me question why the President is aggressively pursuing a failed energy policy for America.

We all know that the climate changes. It has been changing since the beginning of time. The question that needs to be asked, and answered precisely and honestly, is what is the impact of human activity on climate, and what are the appropriate actions, if any, that should be implemented.

Today's hearing asks the Committee to examine the impacts of climate change on farming, fishing, forestry, and hunting. I think the public would be well served to pay close attention to the testimony of Dr. David Legates, as he will testify to the pressure in the scientific community to agree without question to a one-sided view that supplants the scientific process with the notion of consensus. Additionally, Dr. David South will discuss the impact of forest management policies on forest fires. His testimony leads to a logical conclusion, which is that active forest management allows for the harvest of overgrown forests, which would lessen the number and severity of forest fires, and that the claimed relation of forest fires to CO2 emissions is dubious at best. Counting the benefits of sound forest management is typically lost on those who are pushing an anti-fossil fuel agenda in favor of regulatory cap-and-trade.

I would ask that a recent Wall Street Journal article entitled "The Myth of the Climate Change ‘97%'" be entered into the record. The article underscores the fact that claims of scientific consensus over climate change are not as clear cut as anti-fossil fuel advocates would have you believe. Additionally, I would like to enter Dr. Richard Tol's testimony from last week's House Science Committee hearing. Dr. Tol, one of the IPCC's most senior and expert reviewers, left the IPCC earlier this year over concern with the lack of precision and forthrightness in the IPCC process. He also balks at the 97% myth. I also ask that these additional research and articles provided by our Republican witnesses be submitted for the record.

We are at a critical stage in the United States as we determine what type of energy policy we will have. What the President is attempting to do will unilaterally shift the country toward a policy that guarantees increased energy prices and a less competitive economy. I think that is the wrong path, and I hope this hearing will highlight the need for a more precise accounting of the science.

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Friday, May 30, 2014

Eye on the EPA: Unearned Bonuses, Paychecks for Nothing, and Credit Card Abuse
Your Taxpayer Dollars at Work... Or Not
Fraud at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is nothing new. John C. Beale, a former high-ranking official at the EPA and fake CIA agent, was convicted for stealing nearly $1 million from American taxpayers. Beale received hundreds of thousands in unearned bonuses and would skip entire days, even weeks and months from the office, while still receiving a full paycheck. While all this is outrageous, it is clear that his crimes were just the tip of the iceberg. EPA's lax internal controls and substandard management allow Agency employees to regularly take advantage of the system and benefit themselves at taxpayer expense. Unfortunately, it is difficult to quantify at this stage the true amount of waste of taxpayer dollars, meaning more oversight is needed. Below are a few examples of blatant misuse of government time and funds:

 

Paychecks for Not Working

• For over 20 years, an employee claimed to be "working from home," yet produced no work while receiving a full salary. The employee was a GS-13 Step 10, which carries an annual salary of $116,901.
Status: The employee voluntarily retired during the OIG investigation, and received full benefits and pension. EPA did not reclaim any of her salary.
• Another employee was paid nearly $160,000 for two years, while residing in a nursing home and producing no work. The employee was a GS-15 Step 10, which pays an annual salary of $157,100.
Status: The employee is currently on administrative leave, but still receiving the full salary and benefits of an active employee.
• For more than two months, one employee admitted to not being physically present in the office 59% of the time he reported that he was present. During this time, the employee collected a full paycheck. This employee was a GS-13, which carries an average salary of $89,924-$116,901.
Status: The employee is currently still employed at EPA, but was suspended without pay for twelve days, placed in absent without leave status for 27.25 hours, and was required to pay back $1,149.

 

Unearned Bonuses

• In the last eight years, eleven EPA employees have received $481,819 in unauthorized bonuses.
• Additionally, two EPA OIG employees received $64,204 in bonuses without the requisite documentation.

 

Charging EPA Credit Card for Personal Expenses

• In 2012, EPA employees charged $79,254 in prohibited or improper purchases on Agency credit cards. Most egregious examples include $17,235 towards gym memberships for employees and their families, and $8,163 for gift cards. Other examples include charges for dance halls, daycare, and theater and music expenses.

 

Misuse of Federal Equipment

• In three recent cases, EPA employees were inappropriately using their government-provided computers and laptops to view pornographic materials during work.

o One case involved an employee who for the last few years spent two to six hours a day viewing pornography websites while at work. This employee is a GS-14, which carries an average annual salary of $106,263-$138,136.

Status: He is still employed and receiving full salary and benefits.

o A GS-13 employee used his EPA email account to access child pornography.

Status: The employee voluntarily retired during the course of the investigation. He pled guilty in state court and was sentenced to five years of probation.

o Another GS-13 employee was charged for two counts of child pornography stored on his EPA laptop.

Status: The employee is on administrative leave, but still receiving full salary and benefits.

o One EPA employee used his laptop to frequently access internet dating sites during work hours.

• In another case, an employee used his EPA laptop for a family business, and gave his EPA password to family members who used his government laptop at his residence, which goes against Agency safety protocol.

Status: The employee was placed on administrative leave, barred from EPA facility and allowed to resign.

• One GS-13 EPA employee was running a personal business during work hours using EPA-issued equipment.

Status: Terminated for unsatisfactory work performance.

• One Senior Executive Service employee was running a personal business out of her EPA office during work hours, including the sale of jewelry, pocketbooks, and weight loss products.

Status: Still employed and receiving full benefits and salary.

• When traveling abroad, certain EPA employees would have the Agency pay for their international calls. An independent review identified nineteen EPA employees and contractors during a six-month period that racked up $4,136.49 in international roaming charges for personal calls.
• A GS-12 EPA employee admitted to spending $1,500 of EPA funds to conduct an air sample test at his rental home to settle a personal legal dispute over the presence of mold in his home.

 

Empty Space

• In May 2013, it became public that EPA's warehouse in Landover, Maryland, was fitted with "mancaves" and safety hazards making it unfit for Agencywork. To this day, EPA spends approximately $750,000 per year on the lease for this warehouse.
• Another EPA OIG review identified 433,336 square feet in under-utilized space as of February 2012 in thirteen of sixteen facilities reviewed. This under-utilized space was estimated at costing taxpayers $21.6 million each year.

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Friday, May 23, 2014

ICYMI: Hollywood Anti-Fracking Environmentalists Happy to Team with Fake Middle Eastern Oil
This week, an investigative video was released showing Hollywood film producers eager to accept Middle Eastern money to produce an anti-fracking video. The actor, portraying a wealthy Middle Eastern investor, is clear that he wants to ban hydraulic fracturing in America because it hurts the Middle Eastern oil industry, and he wants to pay the Hollywood producers to make the movie. The producers not only agree to make the movie, but they have no qualms with hiding his financial involvement behind a wall of far-left environmental activists and non-governmental organizations. The producers make it clear - this is not their first time.

Click here to watch the video.

Sen. David Vitter made the following statement:

"Natural gas production from hydraulic fracturing is clearly one of the brightest spots in our nation's economy. We know there's clear collusion between the Obama Administration, the EPA and far-left environmentalists, including the Hollywood elite, to pursue an anti-domestic energy production agenda. Thankfully this time the joke is on them because their agenda has not been a joke for America's middle class workforce and our economy."

In the video, the Hollywood producers tell the fake Middle Eastern investor how his involvement can be hidden behind the participation of various environmentalists groups like Moveon.org, Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). They explain it is necessary to hide his investment, so that the film will have greater credibility and a greater political impact.

EPW Republicans have obtained the transcript from the investigative video. Below are some excerpts:

• "This is not the first major project that we've had funded through a funding source which you know, for various reasons - we didn't disclose. It would have been very unwise for everybody to understand the dynamics of that funding. So we know how tricky it is.... It's money, so in that sense we have no moral issue." - said Josh Tickell, 3/10/14

• "Friends of the Earth -- with their Executive Director. So essentially, whatever -- whatever -- however we did this, it would be essentially housed inside of a group of non-profits and very high profile people who are already in the movement and who are already working along the movement. So for all intents and purposes, anybody looking from the outside at this will see all of these people involved cast (sic) working for, working with the movie and will be like, ‘Oh, well, we can see -- we do see where the funding came from. It came from all of these.' They will make the assumption. We will not offer it. You know?" - Josh Tickell, 2/28/14

• "The second group of people is - it's the Code Blue Foundation. The NGO's responsible for funding the anti-fracking and Upper New York - in New York State. So they're well known in the fracking movement. And they would love to executive produce and put their names on the film. And then the third - the third entity - well, actually, they won't necessarily be an executive producer, but they're very close with Environment California.... Moveon.org is doing a pretty big push right now and we're in touch with their high sort of level team. And then the other one is ... Friends of Earth." - said Rebecca Tickell, 2/28/4

• "And then what we normally do is we always list all the foundations we work with in the thank you's of the credits. And they take a look at that as - it's like people just look at the credits or they look at the website or they look at the non-profits involved and they go, "okay, this is who put money in." - said Josh Tickell, 2/28/14

• "Here's the thing - I think it really did, you know, looking back - certainly looking back at the mediascape of how the bloggers fare, how did the fare, how did the sort of digital world respond to Promised Land? I think it really hurt the movie to have one of the production companies based on Abu Dhabi and for that to be so public and so up front." - said Josh Tickell, 2/28/14

• "But the anti-fracking community just like the heads of the NRDC, Moveon.org, Environment California it's a small community... I was on a call with Stan Jacobsen, runs Environment California, when we did the Prop 87 initiative, and I was one of ten people on that call. That was, that was all the major players. NRDC, Your Club, GreenPeace, Moveon.org, and then Environment California, Environment America, and Friends of the Earth, that was it, it was ten people. So you know we're just, we're hyper aware and hyper sensitive that that the coalitions are tight knit, they are cellular in that they can work independently, but around this issue specifically around fracking everyone, everyone is like on the same level. So the communication is pretty clear between those organizations." - said Josh Tickell, 3/10/14

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

How the Obama Administration’s Clean Water Act Abuse Impacts Local Governments
While concern over the size and scope of our federal government grows, so does the government’s ambition to welcome itself into your backyard
The Obama Administration is currently attempting to expand the federal government's power under the Clean Water Act (CWA). EPW Republicans are concerned with the way this Administration's water-related policies threaten our nation's economy, families, farmers, and small business owners. Click here to read more.

If finalized, the proposed "waters of the United States" rule will result in a significant expansion of federal authority under the CWA. As the number of waters considered jurisdictional under the CWA increases, so do the impacts on our cities and counties. The term "navigable waters" appears more than 70 times through the CWA, and the proposed rule would redefine navigable waters every time it appears. Each time a water body is deemed to be a "waters of the United States," costly administrative and regulatory actions are imposed, and it is our local governments, and in turn, fellow citizens, who will bear a significant portion of the burden. Additionally, if finalized, the proposed rule would also subject our local governments to even more lawsuits from radical environmentalists. Here are a few concerns local governments should be aware of:

1. Costs to Maintain Your Community's Infrastructure Would Increase

The proposed "waters of the United States" rule would increase the number of ditches, such as roadside, flood channels, and others that will be subject federal jurisdiction. Necessary ditch maintenance activities, like clearing vegetation and debris, generally require Section 404 permits, which are costly and time-consuming to obtain. With more ditches subject to federal jurisdiction and more Section 404 permits required, the proposed rule would significantly increase the financial burdens on our cities and counties. These added costs will undoubtedly be passed on to local residents, as most cities and counties currently struggle to afford financial liabilities associated with regulatory requirements.

2. Stormwater Control Costs Would Increase, Burdening Local Governments

Under the proposed rule, all tributaries are considered "waters of the United States." Given that municipal storm water systems function as tributaries, they would also require the regulation of all flow into and out of the system. Thus, local governments would be responsible for meeting additional requirements to maintain stormwater infrastructure, which includes ditches, channels, pipes, and gutters. The cost of attainment to retrofit and maintain entire systems would be significant and burdensome.

3. Managing Local Water Supply Systems Would Be Hindered

In the proposed rule, there is an exemption for wastewater treatment systems but not for water supply systems, which encompass larger federal and State water delivery systems, as well as smaller reservoirs managed by cities and counties. Most water supply systems meet the new definition of a tributary and will therefore be subjected to federal jurisdiction. This could lead to management difficulties and obstruction of their essential function - transporting water to the millions of Americans who need it. Additionally, communities that are already struggling financially could face significant litigation costs from far-left environmental groups based in other parts of the country.

4. Investment in Water Reuse Facilities Would Be Discouraged

Under the proposed rule, water reuse facilities may also be considered "waters of the United States." Currently, many water reuse facilities are being constructed across the country to more efficiently manage water supply, and are used to irrigate agriculture, landscapes, golf courses, and sometimes even for consumption. Constructing these facilities require significant investment. However, the proposed rule would substantially increase the already high cost of building and maintaining these facilities, and could lead to a tapering down of investment and construction.

5. Lack of Definition for Floodplains & Riparian Areas Increases Cost and Uncertainty

Almost every city and county in the United States contains floodplain and riparian areas, and under the proposed rule, these areas would likely be considered a "water of the United States." Imposing such a sweeping categorical classification will dramatically increase the cost of development in such areas. Determining these boundaries requires significant resources that the majority of cities and counties simply do not have. For example, FEMA spent over $100 million annually in floodplain mapping. Failing to define the boundaries of floodplains and riparian areas will not only impose additional costs on local governments, but also add uncertainty, which is the exact opposite of what the EPA has claimed the proposed rule is meant to do.

 

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Vitter Summary Statement for Nuclear Reactor Decommissioning Hearing
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works “Nuclear Reactor Decommissioning: Stakeholder Views”
Thank you, Chairman Boxer, for convening today's hearing, and I would also like to thank our distinguished witnesses for providing testimony this morning.

The regulations enforcing security and safety standards during the nuclear reactor decommissioning process are very important to the people who live around and work in these facilities, a factor we must consider as more plants are forced to shut down due to an erratic regulatory environment.

This is why today's hearing is crucial. Before changes are made to the nuclear decommissioning process, we must hear from those directly impacted to ensure a safe and viable way to move forward.

In a number of these hearings I have noted that regulating just to regulate is a senseless act that causes direct harm to our economy, power supply, and the families who depend on nuclear power to meet their energy needs.

Unfortunately, there are individuals always looking for new ways to regulate, even with limited or no apparent justification. Recent efforts to alter the nuclear decommissioning process include proposing new standards that are not based on sound science or a justifiable need.

Since the 1960s, the United States has decommissioned eleven nuclear reactors with seventeen still going through that process. Throughout this 50-plus year period not once has there been a mishap in the process that has resulted in harm to the public safety.

This committee is purposed with ensuring that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) rules for decommissioning are sufficient to meet the needs of the people we represent.

Safety remains a major priority for this committee. And as the witnesses testify before us today, we will likely hear claims supporting new changes and alterations to the current decommissioning process.

However, I would like to remind folks that many of these alterations do not survive a clear cost-benefit analysis, and are only intended to provide talking points for increased federal interference in our economy.

We will hear calls for the NRC to accept changes to the framework that the Commission's own employees have criticized and opposed, even going so far as noting that further investment of time and money into these issues is wasteful.

I am completely supportive of regulatory efforts that are necessary and make sense, but our current process is successful and there is no urgent need to deviate from that path.

Again, thank you all very much for being here, and I look forward to hearing from each of you on these important issues.

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